Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cause I walk like a p-yimp, talk like a mack 

Check out my swag' yo, I walk like a ballplayer
No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change but that's just the top layer
Man, you was who you was before you got here

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The darkest evening of the year. 

At the Prague Writers' Festival in 2003, Irvine Welsch said The Sex Pistols were his favorite band because they didn't give a fuck, but they cared.

I know they did heroin and were a punk band and Sid Vicious was accused of killing his wife and killed himself. I don't know much about their music, but I liked Welsch's description. I respected the band based on the strength of his endorsement alone.

I also know that some fans out there, maybe Irvine Welsch, must have cringed when they heard Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols' doing radio advertisements for Virgin Atlantic Airways.

At what point do you have to be at in your career to do this? People grow up, agreed, but Sid Viscous stabbed his wife while high on heroin. Ergo, Steve Jones should not do ads for an airline, ever.

My balls and my word is alls i have,
What you gonna do to me?
Nigga, scars will scab

But I'm not interested in debating who sold out and who didn't and what that even means. What I do want to know is how depressed, how broke, how teetering on the verge of oblivion must a man be to sign off on this?

Description from Photo - Bill Buckner & Mooke Wilson, perhaps the most famous error in the history of baseball. Amazingly it's signed by Mookie as well as Buckner! This comes with a certificate of authenticity from Cardboard Memories which has a picture of them signing the photo.

Not amazingly, not one of kind at all. The internet is abound with this dually-penned photo.

I felt bad for Buckner. A career defined by a single play. I assumed he disappeared into seclusion.

Somewhere in the Pacific northwest. Far away from Boston. Maybe in a log cabin.

I did not expect to find him flooding the market with autographed reminders.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Surround the Survivors, A Perimeter Create 

Two weeks ago I wrote:

A few movies have done it right. 9.11.01 as background. As a part of the story but just the primer coat. People are not affected by events this large in a constant gut-wrenching (widow's and family members excluded) way. It's more of static, background noise.

Sunday, I saw The Great New Wonderful which had The Big September staunchly placed as backdrop, and yet all was not right. Maybe I want melodrama, or at least a little drama

Maybe I just want to care about characters and plot if I pay $10.75 to see a movie. I'm reminded of something a teacher at NYU asked me in a writing workshop:

Why are we telling this story today?

I would ask the same of Danny Leiner, director of TGNW becaue it requires infinitely less energy and action to not talk about 9/11 or not make a movie about it.

9/11 can only be background if there is another story to advance the plot. In 25th Hour there was the specter of Ed Norton's pending prison sentence, that gave immediacy to the love interests, the conversations with friends, family, father. It even gave immediacy to discussion of 9/11. It wasn't just public it was personal. Norton starts shouting at mutli-racial phantoms in his mirror at himself. We’ve been through this movie before on these pages, but there were compelling characters you can care about in the film. It didn't have to be about 9/11 at all because the plot could stand alone.

If a movie has an ensemble cast tasked with sorting out 9/11 one year later, then by default every story should be about 9/11 in some way. This TGNW was not.

Here is the ensemble...

There is a young boy, age 8. He is disturbed, regularly sees a psychologist, wears strange outfits consisting of cowboy boots, capes and sock puppets. He hides books outlining how to skin animals and taxidermy. He burns toy army figurines. He gets into a fight with an Armenian boy and calls him a sand monkey. This seems 9/11-induced. But it turns out that this has been going on for two years prior to 9/11. There is no link other than the sand monkey comment which is topical, timely but unconvincing to this jury.

Olympia Dukakis lives in Requiem for A Dream-Brooklyn.

She eats TV Dinners, watches a TV almost too old fashioned to be believed. She sits next to her husband and clips coupons. She is old and feels it. Her husband says nothing and smokes cigarettes on the porch. She paints botanical scenes, in secret. She is passionate for something, he is not. She resents her husband for being old and having nothing to say and most of all for being ordinary. She runs into a childhood friend from Coney Island. He is not boring. He is old but full of energy, he buys Snickers bars, rides a bike, has lived in Italy, knows good wine. They spend time together. She has feelings, thinks for a moment that maybe there could be more to life than her living room. But he ends up still being married and just wanted to be friends with her after all. She retracts further. She sees her husband at home and hates him, shakes him. This is not 9/11. They have 9/11/2002 on their television, but this is not the point. Her story is sad but incidental.

And in a way this is more real right? This is how lives happened around 9/11/01/02/03, but why make a movie about the ordinary?

The ensemble continues. Two Indian limo drivers/security guards for Indian diplomats and sub-continent celebrities, Avi and Satish, provide foreign other comic relief. They are fairly funny, but this should not be the point. One is stern the other is goofy. Fred and Barney. Some Hispanic youths lean on their limo, Satish yells and pushes him off the car. The youth calls him Apu and spits on the limo. That is the extent of anything related to 9/11. Avi cheats on his wife with the checkout girl at Pathmark. He feels bad about it. He cries. Satish consoles him. They agree to see the new Lawerance Fishburne movie together.

There has to be more.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s story-line is the only one that was enjoyable or did anything close to approximating a reaction to 9/11. She is firmly ensconced in the business of upper-echelon cake design and sales. She sells cakes for upwards of 25K to sweet sixteen socialites. She travels with a team of cake salesmen and women dressed in Zoolander-style outifts; aviator lens and pinstripe suits, warm-up jackets and stilettos. They travel in a Land Rover. They sell cakes. Gyllenhaal wants some information about a potential client. She speaks with Edie Falco at lunch. Edie is the cake competition. She says that after everything that has happened, don't you think we would be doing something more, not focusing on all this competition and posturing. She talks about how she went to Antarctica 4 years prior to see penguins, she would like to make a 2nd career of studying them as a zoologist or something. Falco hangs herself later in the movie. Gyllenhaal gets the account, sells the cake. She attends the sweet sixteen and walks to a karaoke stage where a lone girl is singing, Gyllenhaal loses it, begins crying. She is a petty person and knows it. She just sold a cake for 25 thousand, a woman killed herself, and there has to be something more than this.

But I don't know if I liked this because of how ridiculous this sounds (it was) or because it really moved me (it may have a little, but not significantly).

And any movie utilizing Stephen Colbert in a cameo should either cast him in a humorous role or place him in a role where he is intentionally not funny because you expect him to be.

He was a school principal and extraneous to 9/11 and my overall enjoyment.

And even in my absence you still feel my presence, exactly.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Offered with Maximum Gravity, Consider the Following... 

I go to a gym. It has three floors, each floor has clocks like this

mounted on either side of the room.

This is so standard that it is hardly worth mentioning. A small detail that adds to the location type - gym, school, DMV. Standard to the scenery.

What if you walked into a gym and saw a clock like this

or this



Would the room devolve into the bizarre?

Would you raise a quizzical eyebrow, unsure if you were in the right place or time?

Would you not sign up for a membership at a gym with clocks like these?


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It Only Took 3 Years But I Did It 

Whattup June 21, Longest Day of the Year?!?!?


Well Allow Me to Retort 

So I had a little time on my hands this morning and I was really hoping to get up a post about last night's Sweden-England game so I could give love to the Swedes and hate a little bit on Beckham, the Derek Jeter of the international sports world. Then I comes in and sees the Got's post below, which he indicates will be is final words on the whole Iraq controversy, much debated here at Billiken over the past couple of years. So I says to myself, I says, I should really get up a response and make it my final say on the whole issue too.

Predictably, I am utterly appalled by the Got’s last post. Now, it goes without saying that the Abu-Ghraib disaster was a despicably depraved series of events, and it requires no stretch of comprehension to understand why seeing those images in the news would leave even the most rational of moral people in a sputtering rage, much less concerned Americans who had been against the war in the first place. However, there are limits to how much lunacy these frustrations excuse, and can be endured.

First, please consider the implications of stating that the depraved images that came out of Abu Ghraib were “more vivid and telling of where we were as a country” than the evidence left behind at scenes like Auschwitz (referenced below). Comparing the emotional reaction one has to images of Abu Ghraib humiliation and the reality of the holocaust’s mass murder, I suppose, is subjective – although personally I have never in person seen anything as overwhelming and soul-killing as all those glass cases of hair and children’s clothes etc. that remain at Auschwitz, and I find the suggestion that the AG prisoner snapshots – depraved though they were - were more “vivid” to be a bit of an affront.

But to say they were more “telling of where we are as a country” – this is worse. What a vile suggestion, this. Those AG pictures splattered in the world press were images of criminal acts, furiously reviled and condemned by US citizens. The people in those pictures have been prosecuted and put in jail. Right now, as O.J. Simpson struggles to decide between a pitching wedge or a sand wedge, that Graner guy is serving a ten-year jail sentence. I personally would argue that he and his ilk should have gotten more, but still (that shit’s nervous son).

The statement that these pictures are “telling of where we are a country” rather than an aberration reviled and punished by our society implies further that this sort of behavior represents, in some meaningful way, that of the US military. Can evidence be presented here that the vast majority of men and women in uniform risking their lives overseas do not in fact follow orders and go about their jobs not only under the strictures of military code and professionalism but with the guidance of their own morals and sense of decency? That they are not, in fact, as humanitarian as their profession allows? If not, I think it quite the slander to say that the sickening transgressions of the unlawful few are “telling” of the country, its military, and its place in the world as an “international entity.”

We have never seen nor would we expect to see on Billiken images such as this,

or this,

or pictures of soldiers passing out ballots

or getting a town's water system working again;

nor would we expect if such images ever reached the light of day that the same strained efforts would be applied to find that they are important and vivid symbols. That they are “telling.” We all know kids from our high schools or towns etc. that have gone or remain in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I can promise you through the knowledge of even that small statistic sample known personally – if not from a larger faith in the humankind in general - that there are at least as many of the type of people shown above as there are Lyddie Englands and the rest of the dirty dog-leash dozen.

The more deserved complaint about those AG events, of course, is that the event signaled a failure for the US military and the Defense Department as organizations. I am quite sure that there are valid arguments to be made that Donald Rumsfeld should have resigned or have been asked to resign following the failures of oversight and discipline that allowed things at AG to have gotten so out of hand. I don’t know enough about the chain of command involved and the particulars of the incident to be able to comment usefully on whether higher-ups were ultimately let off the hook when they should have been held accountable.

But it is clear even absent such an analysis how misdirected the Got’s rage has become when he says, presumably of Bush and his administration, that “he/they should have resigned in 2004.” What on earth does that mean? The whole administration should have resigned because of these failures of oversight … and handed the government to whom? In 2004 the Bush administration’s opponents made their case to the American people that the administration was mismanaging international affairs and that they could do a better job. And the American electorate told them to go jump in a lake. It remains ridiculous to suggest today that the administration should have walked away from responsibilities the electorate democratically entrusted them with – twice – to hand over the government to an opposition power for whom they did not vote and with whom they did not trust the management of a country and its affairs.

Abu Ghraib was a horrible setback for the US and its goals. But inasmuch as the conflict in Iraq involves its own war for the “hearts and minds” of the people, the event was a lost battle that did not and could not necessitate our surrender in that war. The Got writes of AG that the US as an “international entity” should “shamefully bow out” after such an incident. A travesty of thought. If the US were to “bow out” of Iraq, consider what fate this withdrawal would leave to the Iraqis? The terrorist thugs who kidnap and torture the innocents in the name fundamentalist extremism may not take digital photography that the Got may find as symbolic and “vivid” as the AG shots, but their techniques are immeasurably more brutal and the effects of their maiming that much more permanent.

The United States, for better or worse, has invested years and lives into its mission in Iraq, and whatever sins arising from AG the country “as an international entity” can collectively be held for have been paid for a million times over with our own blood.

Our continuing obligation not to “bow out” after AG is no less true for all the gruesome setbacks our forces and the Iraqi people face from the terrorists there today. I find it unthinkable that we would abandon the Iraqis now, after all this, when their security forces remain precariously developed; whatever shame has been met in the past and whatever further setbacks wait in the future, the US has to stay and finish the job (until the Iraqis can continue it in their own).

It will do no good now to look back and try to rewrite history in a way so as to allow events to jibe with the anger and frustration (often deserved) that people feel from this exhausting and difficult conflict. Yes, the president knew who Zarqawi was before March 2003 (come on dude); look at the speech he gave in October 2002 about Iraq providing him with aid, or the presentation Colin Powell gave on him in the winter of 2003 to the UN. No, we did not go into Iraq to steal oil, or so Cheney could benefit from his (nonexistent) holdings in Halliburton and walk out of the jungle rich. The image may be from Death of a Salesman, but the sentiment is straight out of Michael Moore-land.

But we’ve been over all this before; believe in what fairy tales you must. The perceptions held and rationales for taking war to Iraq were what they were at the time, and are stated plainly in records to be examined and debated as seen fit by history. But the trees are no less trees and no less a forest make for the Got’s inability to see them. And it’s going to take more than vivid imagery and imagined symbols to cut them down.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Every time I see 'em look 'em in the eye 

Ask 'em how I know... it’s me surprise!

I wrote a bunch of short stories in college. They had footnotes, commentary in the bottom margin. This pre-dated Billiken and Blogger, but these footnotes functioned similarly to the comments sections in these posts. But, I wasn't having a conversation/debate with readers; I was critiquing myself, arguing perceived slights, anticipating future questions and criticism. The footnotes weren't to cite any source material; they were used to add information (parenthetically) in order to create the illusion of a larger audience, a community of like-minded readers who understood me and got...

It allowed me to be detached from the story, critical of and yet able to laugh at my own writing while it was being read. I wanted everyone to see how clever and introspective I was.

My post from this morning didn't feel right. I felt like I was just going through the motions of calling Bush/Cheney war criminals, of suggesting that the Iraq war was about oil, financial gain. This is how it came about-

I saw the pic of Iraqi General Abdul-Aziz Mohammed on Yahoo.

It looked silly. It looked like he was a floating head surrounded by colorful tree-like microphones. It looked like he was hunting ducks in the marsh, obscuring himself behind reeds.

This reminded me of Dick Cheney and quail hunting and the saying, can't see the forest for the trees. The latter seemed relevant. I couldn't see the general's body because/for the microphones. I/we can't see the larger point to our entanglement in Iraq because of the daily kidnappings, murders, US soldier abductions, civilian collateral damage, prison scandals, roadside bombs, prison camps and semi-civil war. This seemed like a good metaphor.

Separately, I recalled Jay-Z's Excuse Me Miss, which has a great finish to the last verse. The whole song he talks about a woman that he is into, he imagines various hip-hop-style-sexy-scenarios, vacations in St. Tropez, penthouse suites, Bentley convertibles, Moet, wine, cheese, cake, bread, dough, cream, cash, money. And at the end he says, but before I jump out the window, what's your name? Good, sober thinking by Jay. Let's not get carried away. Let's understand who or what we are dealing with before we get involved with anything.

Like we should have really understood the divide between Sunnis and Shiites. We should have understood that this was not Operation Desert Storm Part Deux and that there were groups in and out of the region that would take advantage of a destabilized post-invasion Iraq. We should have understood this prior to jumping out the window and commencing to shock and awe everyone.

Did we know Zarqawi's name before March 2003? Someone may have, did Bush?

And so why are we there? To bring democracy to the Middle East? To allow George W. Bush to finish the war his father didn't? To allow Cheney to entrench Halliburton and KBR in Iraq? To fight terrorism? To steal oil?

In a way it is all true now. KBR and Halliburton are involved in every aspect of security, supply chain logistics, transportation, infrastructure and civil engineering in today's Iraq.

There may not have originally been terrorists of the Al Qaeda-variety in Iraq, we certainly didn't fight them during the 2 weeks of the actual war operation. But we are fighting terrorists now. We attracted them, gave them targets, stayed around, created an environment where they are able to thrive and reach mass audiences.

This war might not have been waged in order to gain entrance to Iraq's oil fields. But it has become about oil. Instability in that region has caused gas prices to double since 2003.

Self-fulfilling prophecies these are called.

I referenced Death of a Salesman when Willy Loman's brother talks about emerging from the jungle a rich man. He made a fair diamond out of dusty coal, that sort of thing. This is an easy reference. Bush, Cheney, walking out of Iraq rich, oil money rich?

Is that what this is about? I have forgotten. I posted that this morning and it doesn't seem deserved. Like I'm making easy references and looking for lyrics and pictures and references that indict Bush, not because I feel they are effective or I because I am truly passionate about a regime change...

but because I think this is clever.

I don't want to even talk about Iraq anymore I want to talk about Dwyane Wade and the Mets and Jack White's new band and I want to see Jack Black's new movie (is it good?)

But remember I in the Spring 2004, a time when my cynicism was not so cynical, when Abu Ghraib was in the news and the electrified gimp on a soap box captivated the perverse in the world's imagination?

I was genuinely outraged when this happened. Not the standard anti-Bush bashing. This wasn't murder but it was so vivid and fucked-up looking that it just seemed like something significant had to happen in order to restore balance the cosmos.

Like if this happened to a CEO or a public figure who was exposed and shown to be involved in some sadistic S&M ring... it would be a public spectacle. The individual would be fired, their family humiliated, you would never hear from this person again. I thought that should happen to the US as an international entity. We should shamefully bow out.

It certainly wasn't on par with Agent Orange, suicide bombing, dropping two A-bombs on Japan, or Auschwitz in terms of human depravity and destruction but it was somehow more vivid and telling of where we were as a country and planet...

It was like the internet and digital cameras and computer viruses and 24 hour news and talking heads and Dateline's weekly pedophile expose and feces and life imitating the movies and girls gone wild the wonder years style home movies and look at me mom and industrial strength soap and latex and I want to send a shout out to ignorance and super-sized extra value meals and fake finger tips in chile for potential of lucrative litigation and ABC's new reality show.

(tell me, reader(s), what this reminds you of in the comments section)

I thought the President should quit because of this. It was embarrassing and it was completely dishonorable. Anyone with pride would have taken responsibility and resigned.

Nothing happened. They all remain or have swapped positions or have left on their own terms. Guantanamo remains open. I stopped complaining. People keep dying. The motivation/justification for the war has changed many times. I no longer care. People's attention has dissipated. It's 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006...

I hate writing about this. I will no longer reference Bush or his administration. I won't make fun when he misspeaks. When he contradicts himself. I won't point out when US foreign policy escalates tensions with Iran, N. Korea, Syria. I won't.

But, he/they should have resigned in 2004.

WE should have never been heard from again, quarantined or put in the corner for a timeout for a while anyway.

But yea I like footnotes and the comment section, and parentheses (so comment).

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